Students from across the state and region will once again toss pumpkins off the roof of West Virginia University’s Engineering Sciences Building in the name of science.
The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering will host the 27th annual Pumpkin Drop, Oct. 24, at 10 a.m.
The Pumpkin Drop, which brings together more than 200 teams from across the state and region, is more than just a fun event. Teachers use the Pumpkin Drop to enhance curriculum by giving students hands-on learning experience. Students involved in the competition learn concepts in physics, architectural design and aerodynamics. Students have the chance to apply what they have learned in the classroom to their designs.
Jace McClean, a teacher at Connellsville Junior High West in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, makes the hour-long drive to Morgantown with his students every fall for the event. McClean uses the Pumpkin Drop to join math, science, engineering and team work.
“The Pumpkin Drop gives students the hands-on learning they need to understand science,” McClean said. “It’s also a great opportunity for students to observe and analyze other school districts’ products and experience an active college campus.”
Each team participating in the Pumpkin Drop must design an enclosure or apparatus to protect a pumpkin from damage when dropped from the roof of the 11-story Engineering Sciences Building. Winning entries are those that land closest to a target on the ground with the pumpkin remaining intact. Pumpkins must be at least 10 inches in diameter and the total weight of the pumpkin and its protective enclosure cannot exceed 60 pounds.
Morgantown’s Mountaineer Middle School students begin preparing for the Pumpkin Drop at the beginning of the school year. Teacher Joy Kiehl works the Pumpkin Drop into her curriculum by first having students participate in an egg drop. Students learn lessons in shock absorption, distribution of force of impact and elastic and inelastic collisions.
“Students think critically from year to year about what did and didn’t work,” Kiehl said. “After each Pumpkin Drop we reflect on what was successful and improve each year based on our findings.”
At Suncrest Middle School in Morgantown, Becky Haun’s team of eighth grade students is looking to defend the winning title. Last year, her team won first-place with its pumpkin that landed four inches from the target. After watching the first Pumpkin Drop 27 years ago, Haun makes it a tradition to bring her students back every year.
“The WVU Pumpkin Drop is an experience I don’t want my students to miss,” Haun said. “If they come home with a little pumpkin juice on their shirt from hugging their entry too tightly, that’s just the price one pays for scientific advancement.
Wally Venable , a mechanical and aerospace engineering associate professor emeritus, will serve as judge for this year’s event. Commemorative Pumpkin Drop T-shirts will be sold at the event with proceeds benefitting the Ronald McDonald House.
The event is sponsored by WVU’s student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. ASME’s mission is to serve diverse global communities by advancing, disseminating and applying engineering knowledge for improving the quality of life, and communicating the excitement of engineering.